Friday, 28 May 2021

Special REVIEW: Kamen Rider Saber x Ghost

Kamen Rider Saber x Ghost

If you created two core entries in the Kamen Rider franchise and had the opportunity to bring them together in one crossover special, of course you'd take that chance. Following on from Yuya Takahashi colliding the worlds of Zero-One and Ex-Aid in Kamen Rider Genms -The Presidents-, Kamen Rider Saber head writer Takuro Fukuda now brings his works together in Kamen Rider Saber x Ghost. Released through the Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub, this (for now at the very least) one episode special also celebrates the fifth anniversary of Kamen Rider Ghost - with Shun Nishime returning to the role of Takeru Tenkuji for the first time since his guest appearance in 2018's Kamen Rider Zi-O.

Kanon KidnappedDesast joins the fun

After Kanon is kidnapped by the remnants of Danton's followers, she is sent out into the world to find her brother. This catches the attention of Desast, who takes a particular interest in Kanon. As Takeru frantically searches for Kanon, at the same time Touma attempts to save her from the evil Megid's clutches.

As Desast and Danton's followers eventually joining forces, the two Kamen Riders unite their strength - with Takeru also presenting Touma with a Wonder Ride Book his temple has held for generations.

Takeru meets ToumaKamen Rider Saber Ghost Ijinroku

If there's anything to take away from Kamen Rider Saber x Ghost it's that a simple plot isn't necessarily a bad thing, and in fact can work out very well when it's been planned out properly. Whereas Genms -The Presidents- failed to adequately utilise the crossover portion of its story and Kamen Rider Saber: The Phoenix Swordsman and the Book of Ruin struggled to tell a satisfying story in its limited runtime, this crossover special is able to pull off both without a hitch. At 22 minutes there's no time to tell the kind of complicated story a movie could offer, but instead there's one with a very clear focus that's able to bring out the good in both of its components.

Primarily acting as a follow-on to Kamen Rider Ghost, the special directly references to the events of Ghost RE:BIRTH: Kamen Rider Specter - previously the last thing in Ghost's chronology outside of the ~Memories of the Future~ novel. While there are brief cutaways to footage from the movie and loose explanations for those who might be jumping in having only watched Saber, the special definitely feels like a reward for those who enjoyed Ghost and were hoping to see it revisiting for its first milestone anniversary. It's all the better for this continuation stemming from RE:BIRTH, which was a particularly wild and interesting epilogue to the series. By comparison the Saber elements feel quite light, but the few elements that are included are done in a way that the connections feel relevant. Desast finding a twisted kinship with Kanon because they're both artificial lifeforms isn't exactly a deep-cut connection, but it is enough of a parallel between the two characters that it works as the framework of a story. Likewise the same way Takeru just happens to have been holding the Ghost Ijinroku Ride Book at the Daitenku Temple for generations. In a larger special such convenience might stick out a little bit more, but when you're short on time it's a pretty believable way to insert it into the story.

Kanon & DesastExamining an Eyecon

One of the main reasons this special works so well though is because it trims the cast down considerably. Both Saber and Ghost have fairly sizeable casts that tend to trip over each other in their own shows, so bringing them altogether would be a recipe for disaster. Instead the wise move was made to only use three core characters from each of the shows, along with three new villains to bring it up to nine characters in total. Takeru has previously proven to be a character perfectly suited for crossovers and his immediate dynamic with Touma shows this still to be the case. We see the respect the pair have for each other as Kamen Riders, as well as fun little moments like them being perplexed at each other’s transformation trinkets. On the Saber side of things Mei continues to be an absolute joy with her over the top expressions and reactions to things, but perhaps the biggest surprise of the whole thing is Jabel slipping so effortlessly into Onari’s shoes when it comes to comic relief. While Onari himself could be a bit much a time, Sotaro Yasuda really shows a knack for playing him as ridiculously as possible. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the characters but admittedly not that much in the way of depth - the villains particularly suffering since they’re all following in the footsteps of a villain from another movie. None of them are in any way notable, but rather impressively the story really doesn’t suffer from it.

Taking the position of the damsel in distress isn't exactly breaking new grounds for Kanon and although it's a pity to see her mostly reduced to a walking amnesiac here, what is pleasing is the more physical role Mio Kudo has been given following her stint as Sayo/Kiramei Pink on Mashin Sentai Kiramager. Kanon may be in need of rescue but she can certainly handle herself in a fight. That said, the obvious sister complex Nishime displays in both Ghost and Saber continues to permeate his work here - whether you like it or not.

Mei and JabelDanton's Disciples

Whereas the story is definitely more Ghost-orientated, the action portion of the special definitely feels more focused on Saber which balances things out nicely. That said, we still get an excellent camaraderie between the two Riders on the battlefield, which the pair swapping up their respective villains to keep things interesting in the climax. Ghost even manages to get a Musashi Damashii change in, cleverly bringing him more in line with Saber’s fighting style as well colour matching the two together nicely.

It's also wonderful to see a legacy Kamen Rider gimmick get inserted into the onscreen fiction again, which is something we haven't really seen since the Ex-Aid 'Tricks' specials. Sure Zi-O's Ridewatch gimmick was pretty much an extension of what legacy gimmicks have to offer, but there is something particularly satisfying about seeing the current Rider use a power-up based on one of their predecessors. Although the Ride Book might have been with Takeru out of pure convenience, the comment about Saber needing to use it to defeat “superior Ganma technology” is a nice touch. The Ghost Ijinroku form leans into the Ghost aesthetically wonderfully with its bright orange jacket, adorned with the emblems of all 15 Parka Ghosts. It's a shame we don't see a corresponding Saber form for Ghost, but then from a merchandising perspective there's probably not much value in releasing a new trinket for a five year-old toy. Instead we get to see Saber fight alongside Ghost Grateful Damashii, so that they can both summon the power of the Parka Ghosts. Again, sometimes the most obvious connections are the ones that work the best.

But perhaps the most curious thing of all in this special is the tease of more to come. The story ends on a fairly sizeable cliffhanger, but with "next time" preview at the end or confirmation of a second part coming one has to wonder what Nishime has in mind for the future of the Ghost cast. The prospect of more is definitely exciting, but also ends up making this special frustrating for only scratching the surface of what exactly was going on here. Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub specials seem to be becoming more and more regular these days, so hopefully it won't be too long before we see the conclusion to this story.

Legacy Gimmicks ReturnA Ghostly Transformation

Kamen Rider Saber x Ghost is an exercise in how to do a crossover special right, bringing together only the core components of each series so that it isn't too crowded nor does one outshine the other. Though certainly not essential to the viewing of either show, it's nevertheless a fun excursion that continues to build upon Ghost's epilogue whilst seamlessly inserting Saber into the action. Neither series are anywhere near my favourite, but I'd happily welcome any more adventures Toei have planned for them together.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, any previews to your thoughts on Saber so far? How that were getting into the final stretch that is.

Alex said...

Honestly, I'm REALLY struggling with it. I absolutely hated the first arc, began to enjoy it around the second and now I'm kinda back to not really caring about it again. It's definitely in the running to be my least favourite Rider series I've seen :(

M said...

Saber wasn't Takuro Fukuda redemption. Also, Alex, do you have a writer that you would like to see writing another Kamen Rider show?

rogerph2015 said...

Hope and pray there'll be a sequel that will be coming out very soon. Like, you know, the return of the Kiramagers for the continuation of Kamen Rider Saber X Ghost because Mio Kudou both played Kanon Fukami (Ghost) and Sayo Ooharu/KiramaiPink (Kiramager). I wonder what will be the confrontation between those two people looked like?
P.S.: It looks like you typed the wrong character name for Mio Kudou because Saya/GingaPink was previously played by her fellow Pink Sentai Senior Heroine Actress, Juri Miyazawa of GingaMan (1998). Feeling confused between Saya of 1998 and Sayo of 2020, huh?

Alex said...

Good catch! I am building Super Mini-pla Victory Robo at the moment, so maybe that was the case haha

Chengkeng said...

Lame

Lucas said...

Hearing fans saying nothing but negative things about Saber makes me miss Yasuko Kobayashi even more.